Thursday, 14 March 2013 13:44

Frenchman River Gospel Jam gets major acts; continues 2012's change...

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Ricky Skaggs and the Kentucky Thunder along with George Canyon are two major music acts who have headlined many shows past and present.

The two internationally-revered singers have performed in major centres all over the world and now they’re coming to Shaunavon.
J.J. Hunter, spokesman for the Frenchman River Gospel Jam, which takes place at the Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre Aug. 2-4, confirmed the acts as two of the headliners who will perform at this year’s event. They had Skaggs booked for a while and only recently signed Canyon.
Getting both is a real feather in the cap of the organizing committee and Hunter feels blessed, especially considering how they have picked up right where they left off with last year’s revamped event.
Last year featured equally-impressive Larry Gaitlin and the Gaitlin Brothers as the headliners.
“We were thrilled obviously with how last year went as we took significant steps in making major changes,” said Hunter. One of those changes was with the name of the event and moving it from the end of June to the beginning of August.
“We are reaching a wider demographic while still maintaining the tradition and the local talent as well ... we had never had a concert in the past with a major headliner."
Hunter was thrilled to have both the smooth baritone-voiced Canyon, a popular country singer from Alberta, and of course the veteran Skaggs, whom Hunter described as “one of, if not the best blue-grass pickers in music today.”
The Frenchman River Valley Gospel Music Jamboree existed for 22 years with the event being held 37 km south of Shaunavon at the Valley View Bible Camp.
“There had been 20 years of the Frenchman Butte Gospel Jamboree with the same group of volunteers,” explained Hunter. “At some point, things were (inevitably) going to change. There were a few of us who came on board a couple of years ago. We came to a crossroads and the decision had to be made, were we going to continue with it or just say the Jamboree had run its course? We decided to continue with it. A new group stepped forward ... we decided on the format after we brainstormed a lot of ideas. We were very excited to try it.”
Hunter, who is a part of his own country gospel musical group with his siblings The Hunter Brothers, said they will continue to have a lot of local talent as that part of the tradition remains. JJ plays acoustic and electric guitar and contributes vocals.
He said last year, they attracted 800 to 850 people for the first day and guessed there were 500 to 600 on the second day.
“This year, if we hit those (totals) again, we’ll be happy,” said Hunter.
The Hunter Brothers and earlier, The Hunter Family, have enjoyed many opportunities to play different concerts all over western Canada and the United States. JJ said he understood the process of setting up concerts and to an extent festivals, but his heavy involvement in the Frenchman River Gospel Jam has been an interesting experience.
“It’s opened my eyes in many ways,” said Hunter with a chuckle. “We’ve had the privilege of attending a lot of events, but you don’t really notice a lot of the little details that go into this. Something we really noticed was all of the work and importance of the volunteers. You appreciate them, but you don’t realize how heavily involved they are in a lot of the things you wouldn’t expect. We appreciate this and all of the ideas we see from these other festivals. We’re trying to amalgamate them into the Jam."
The Hunters are currently recording in Nashville for a new compilation. JJ didn’t know when they would release a new CD, but hoped it may be closer to the end of 2013.

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Ryan Dahlman

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